Sunday, July 24, 2022

Staying Strong in Prison - By Jeff Bankens

While the title of this article may seem surprising, there is good reason for it.  You see, besides being a strength-training enthusiast, I am a minister and performing strongman.  However, I have been on hiatus for a while, mostly due to situations and events beyond my control.  They include: the COVID shutdown, back-to-back hurricanes, and many other severe weather events, and the business of becoming one of the Elders (pastors) at my church. 

After all of this time away from performing, I am glad to finally say, “I am back, baby!”  Last week I had the honor of bringing “T-Rex” (my stage persona) to the men incarcerated at the Glen Ray Goodman Unit State prison in East Texas.  While I was very excited at the prospect of being able to minister to and perform in front of a live audience, I had not done it in a very long time.  Not only that, but I had paired down my feats of strength training to a bare minimum over the last couple of years for several reasons stated in the 1st paragraph above.  In addition to those reasons stated above, I was also unsure if I would ever perform again.  My life has moved in a different direction over the last few years and much of my spare time is taken up with my desire to do my part in taking care of the flock I am now helping to shepherd as one of 6 pastors at our church.  

While I thought my performing days might be behind me, I was content to keep up my feats training as a hobby and focus more of my free time acting as and learning to be a pastor.  While it has been very challenging, it is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life.  I love preaching God’s word, sharing the Gospel, and discipling others in their Christian faith.

This January, unexpectedly, I was contacted by a chaplain that I am friends with.  He lives and works in East Texas, about an hour and a half drive from my home in Southwest Louisiana.  He wanted to know if I would be interested in bringing “T-Rex” and a friend (my good friend Josh) to fellowship with his men this July.  Of course I agreed to speak and perform at his unit on July 16, 2022.  As the date approached, the chaplain called again to confirm our date.  He also asked if it would be alright if we had two events on the same date.  Once again, I said yes.  On the inside, I started wondering how my body and performance would hold up in back to back performances.  Remember, although I did have a couple of performances in 2022, it had been at least two years since I had trained and performed feats regularly.

The day came and went, and I can say, I had two of the best evangelistic sermons and performances of my life!  Not only did I not injure myself, but my feats were spot on, my strength was  dialed in, and I barely broke a sweat!  I could not believe how well everything went.  Not only that, but my audience thoroughly enjoyed the performances and the sermons.  To be honest, I really could not imagine it going any better than it did.  So, what is the secret to my success?

As I have reflected on this in the days following my program at the State Prison, I have wondered what brought on my success.  Even though I do not train the feats of strength as often as I did in years past, I have done four things consistently for many years that have brought about my success.  They include the following:  1) Training consistently using basic, full body exercises under a system of double progression with heavy weights and good form; 2) Cleaning up my eating habits and subscribing to intermittent fasting five or more days per week; 3) Focusing more on my cardio-vascular health as I get older (I am 44 now and in some of the best shape I have ever been in); 4) Remembering the importance of my spiritual health.  I would not be who I am now, if not for the changes brought about by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

If I did not consistently work on these four areas of my overall health, I would have no right to call myself a minister, a strongman, or a performer.  While I am grateful that my recent trip to prison was successful, I am also glad to be able to share what I learned with each of you.  To truly be healthy man or woman (made in God’s image), you need to take care of yourselves.  To do so, you need to take care of your bodies.  What better way to do so, then with a program consisting of heavy, basic exercises becoming progressively heavier over time?  One of the best resources you can use to get there is this website.  There are literally hundreds of free articles, podcasts and radio programs, as well as for-purchase books waiting to be digested by eager minds like yours and mine.  Next, it would behoove all of us to continually work on what we eat on a regular basis.  To be honest, I am not the best at “fork discipline”, and I still have been able to make consistent progress over the years.  You can too!  While we are on the subject of health, we cannot neglect the importance of cardio-vascular health.  As Bob likes to say, lift for yourself and do cardio for your family,  This is one of my favorite pieces of advice from Maximum Bob W.  

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not remind you of the importance of your spiritual health.  While it is great to focus some of our extra time and energy on our bodies, they will one day fade and die.  Even the best of us only last into our 90’s or 100’s.  However, we are body and spirit.  Our spirits live on forever, and you and I need to be sure of where we are headed when this life is over.  The only sure bet that I recommend is asking Jesus Christ to be your Lord, Master, and Savior.  If you would like more information concerning spiritual matters, I would invite you to visit the spiritual section of WebStrengthCoach.  I would also invite you to contact me directly at  Please do not hesitate to contact me, as I work very hard to respond as quickly as I can.

God bless you, and happy lifting!

Jeff “TRex” Bankens

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